David Cameron has shown that he doesn’t understand London’s housing crisis

Homes are no more than investment opportunities for the Conservatives


Recent comments from David Cameron have highlighted the fact that the Conservative Party is failing to address the fundamental problems associated with providing genuinely affordable housing in London.

Quoted in the Evening Standard, David Cameron insisted that he and his government would crack down on the use of ‘dirty money’ to purchase property in the capital.

However, in failing to address the issue of homes being treated as nothing more than investment opportunities, both the article and Cameron miss one of the core aspects of the problem. Indeed, the prime minister’s comments emphasise politicians’ lack of interest in and/or ignorance of genuine housing concerns, as prices move beyond the reach of ordinary Londoners.

“The vast majority of foreign-owned businesses that invest in property in the UK are entirely legitimate and proper, and have nothing to hide at all,” said the prime minister.

“They are welcome … but I want to ensure that all this money is clean money. There is no place for dirty money in Britain.

“That’s my message to foreign fraudsters. London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash.”

Cameron’s catchy soundbite shows that he and his Conservative Party see houses primarily as concrete to invest in, assets to accumulate and objects to garner profit from, rather than as homes for ordinary people. This attitude, coupled with speculation on escalating house prices, is helping to push the acquisition of decent housing in the capital beyond the grasp of the majority.

Data recently released by the Office of National Statistics revealed that the average house price in London had risen above £503,000 – a 4.7 per cent increase in a year, and 40 per cent higher than the pre-economic downturn peak.

Meanwhile, the mean London rent has climbed to £1,599. Paying that amount on a net yearly income of, for example, £25,000, would leave under £485 to cover the rest of life’s monthly outgoings, with over three-quarters of net earnings having gone on rent alone.

In the capital, finding decent, affordable and secure accommodation is getting tougher and tougher for ordinary Londoners and their families who, if they are able to afford a home in the first place, are forced to cut back on essentials to pay rent, keep up with mortgages and cover escalating bills.

Politicians’ blind commitment to free-market principles, highlighted by Cameron’s welcoming and beckoning of business investors, and the maintenance of one the most unregulated rental markets in Europe, are at the crux of the issue.

Whilst conceiving of property mainly as investment opportunities, successive governments have simultaneously neglected the need to provide adequate affordable housing; over the past three decades, they have sold off or demolished more social housing than they have built, with the construction of affordable homes slowing in London under Boris Johnson.

A tougher stance with developers is required, alongside a resumption of direct investment in council and social housing, to ensure that more affordable homes are constructed. Investors, meanwhile, must be made to pay fairer taxes and renters be granted more secure tenancies.

And if ‘right to buy’ were to be replaced with ‘right to rent’, it would allow struggling mortgage holders to let their existing homes as council houses.

The Conservative government likes to remind us that it will take a tough stance on struggling foreigners who attempt to relocate to the United Kingdom, but the apparent concern for Britain’s residents does not appear to extend to keeping homes affordable, when big money, regardless of its place of origin, is what is moving to the UK and its capital city.

In his attempt at a catchy, popular statement regarding ‘dodgy cash’ and London, David Cameron managed to demonstrate that his party does not see beyond the pound note and is either unaware of, or pays no regard to, the trials of ordinary people.

The primary function of houses ought to be as places to live, rest and raise a family in, not entities to further grow the financial profile of those who help to drive up prices to outlandish levels.

David Maher is a journalist and member of the Green party

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